Monday, February 20, 2017

Winter Weekend at Home

We often wander great distances to find adventure, but sometimes it can be found right in our own backyard...literally.

Last week we had the first snow that we'd had in a while. Friday night we received about 7 cm of snow. I didn't think much about it given that the high for Saturday was forecast to be 5°C. We took care of our Saturday morning errands and came home and our son was so keen to build a quinzee that we could sleep in. Fortunately, the forecast had changed and the high was now only supposed to be 1°C. So we decided to go for it.

We scraped the ground clean of snow and piled it into a large pile then let it settle for a few hours.

Giant Pile of Snow
Then came the hard part of digging out the quinzee. I worked on the inside while our son worked at moving all of the snow out of the doorway. It was tough at first since there was so little room for the shovel, but it seemed to get easier as we went. Before long the quinzee was dug out and we were soaked, both from the inside and the outside. I'm not sure how we'd manage all our wet gear if we were out in the woods.

All Dug Out
We headed inside for a warm meal and some dry clothes. We dug out our warmest pyjamas, a pair of sleeping bags each and a bottle of hot water to throw in our sleeping bags. Before heading out our son said to me "If we survive, we'll be able to go winter camping". I hope he realizes that I had no intention of not surviving. Once setup we were both too warm. We peeled back a layer or two and turned in. The temperature outside dropped to -10°C but we were quite comfortable in the quinzee. We woke up around 6:30 and headed in for a pancake breakfast. Our outing was a successful one and we are ready to give it a try in the wild.

It snowed all day on Sunday and the puddles had been around as a result of the rain, freezing rain and thawing from before were now buried and frozen solid. The kids decided to shovel them off and slide around them on their boots. They were having a great time so I suggested they get their skates out. So they did.

Just the Right Size

Rink-side Seating

Having a Blast

It's All About Balance
So much fun right in our own backyard! We were so grateful that winter decided to make an appearance. We all seem to enjoy winter so much more where there's snow.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

We Found Winter at Arrowhead!

If you're a fan of snowy winters and live in southern Ontario, this likely has not been much of a fun winter for you. We've had a lot of rain and freezing rain this winter along with some mild temperatures. Recently we decided to set out to find winter by booking a cabin at Arrowhead Provincial Park for the middle of the week. We had such a blast there last winter we thought we'd go back.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. The Ice Skating Trail reopened the day before we arrived and there was lots of snow for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The temperature was below zero every day we were there and as it seems to do every time we go, it snowed every day. The first couple of days brought a couple of centimetres each and on our last day we must have received close to 10 cm. All of the extra snow meant that the tubing hill opened on our last day.

Snowshoeing at Mayflower Lake

Time for a Rest

Mayflower Lake Trail

Short Loop or Long Loop?

Taking a Break at the Amphitheatre

Resting on the Way Back

Walking Hemlock Ridge

Happy Together

Hurray for Winter!

Friendly Chickadees

Table for Two

So Many Chickadees

Family Skate


One Stride at a Time
Staying at the cabins at Arrowhead Provincial Park provided us with an amazing winter location. The scenery was spectacular, the activities were plentiful and the company couldn't be beat. The time away allowed us to really connect as a family. The distractions of work, school, extra curricular activities, jobs around the house, etc. all faded away for a few days. The only important things for those days were being together and being outside. We can't wait to do it again.

What are your favourite winter destinations?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Skiing the SJAM Winter Trail and Gatineau Park

We recently made a trip to Ottawa so that we could enjoy a bit of winter with family. Our first stop in the city (second if you include the rest stop) was to the new Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Winter Trail. I'd read a lot about this trail and couldn't believe that a multi-use pathway that was groomed regularly by volunteers existed right in the city (map). How amazing would it be to live in Ottawa and be able to take advantage of the the trail? Wouldn't it be cool if you could ski to work? We had to check it. 
Excited to be Trying Out the SJAM Trail

We parked at Island Park Drive. The map doesn't show a parking lot, but there was one that was plowed. Although it was cold, with a bitter wind the day we visited we still had a great time. The trail was well groomed and there were a ton of people out. Lots of parents were there introducing their children to skiing. The trail was a flurry of activity. There were beginner skiers, expert skiers (both classic and skate), snowshoers, fat bikers  fat-bikers fat bikes and even some walkers. All of this is available free of charge but you can make a donation here (it's worth it). It was incredible. What a great way to get people active in the winter.

Cruising Along the SJAM Trail

Heading Under the Parkway
 We spent about an hour on the trail before our toes started getting cold. I find it amazing to see how much the kids are improving each time we go out. Their technique is getting better, they can go further and best of all...they're just happy being outside.

We packed up our things and went to visit some family. During the visit we planned what the next day would look like. We all wanted to go skiing in Gatineau Park. The park is an amazing collection of cross-country ski trails (over 200 km). To say it's a cross-country skier's paradise would be an understatement.

We thought it would be a ton of fun to park at P10, ski the Fortune Lake Parkway to Keogan Cabin, have lunch then ski back. Round trip would be about 7 km. We weren't sure how the younger members of our group would fare and the forecast was for cold temperatures again. Rather than trying to push it we decided to do an easier route. We started with a stop at the visitor centre to purchase our tickets. It was here that we discovered that kids under the age of 13 are FREE. What a great deal!

So Much Snow
 We headed to P8 and skied the northern section of the Gatineau Parkway. Everyone had a great time and when we got tired it was easy to turn around and head back to the parking lot.

We're Off

Time for Some Assistance

Beautiful Scenery

Having a Great Time

Camp Fortune in the Distance
 We headed back to visitor centre for lunch. They have a great lunch room with a bunch of picnic style tables for visitors. We had lunch then the kids went off to explore the exhibits while a few of the adults decided to try a more challenging trail. We parked at P7 and began the long climb up trail 30. It probably took up close to 20 minutes to do the climb up to trail 1, a distance of only 1 km. It was a great workout and the view from the lookout was great. We skied along trail 1 all the way to Keogan Cabin. It was a neat cabin with lots of tables and a wood stove. It would make a great lunch stop. Perhaps next year we'll have to bring the kids (taking a different route of course). We didn't stay long so that we could get back to the parking lot before the sun set. The return trip seemed a lot faster as a result of the huge downhill section at the end. The trip was a good workout full of beautiful scenery.

Going Up

View from the Lookout
Getting Late in the Day
 We were hoping to take the kids for a quick ski along the SJAM trail the following day but the morning temperature was -20°C. Despite the cold I ducked out early-ish for a quick trip along the trail. It was cold but once I was moving I didn't really notice. The views were breathtaking and I didn't see another person on the trail until I had reached the halfway point of my trip. What a great way to start the day.

Early Morning on the SJAM Trail

Looking Out Over the River
We had such a great visit to the nation's capital. We're so grateful for both of these natural spaces located so close to the city and the volunteers and staff who make them possible.

We're already planning our next winter outing. Where will your winter adventures take you?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Skiing Into the New Year

You can't help but think it's going to be an excellent day when you put on your merino wool after breakfast and anticipate being in it for the rest of the day. We decided to celebrate the New Year (happy New Year) by spending the day on our skis. As I write this, Google is showing me photos of what we did last year on this day. It turns out it was the same thing. I guess we've started a bit of a New Year's day tradition.

We had our breakfast then packed up and headed for Kawartha Nordic. We must have been really excited to get going because I almost forgot our ski boots and when we arrived I realized that I'd left the polls for our pulk behind. I guess the three year old is going to have to ski the whole way! Fortunately, the ski shop was open and they still had a pulk we could rent. I was surprised and relieved to see that they were open.

Although we had been here a week earlier we hadn't noticed that the trail map had been updated. There seems to be a ton of new trails. A huge thank you to everyone that helps us have such a great experience.

As a family we decided that we were ready to take the next step. Often when we ski at Kawartha Nordic we do the 2.5km loop to the sugar shack and back. We were all ready for more and decided that we'd ski to Laderach Cabin for lunch (Rabbit to Kenner to Deer), have a break and ski back.

Laderach Cabin
We couldn't have asked for a better day. There was a pile of fresh snow, the wind was light and the temperature was just below freezing. The conditions and grooming were perfect.

We're Off
Our three year old chose to ski first and she did amazingly well. She went much further than I imagined and seemed to enjoy herself the whole way.

Still Having a Great Time
Rabbit
Man Down!
Doing Great
As we skied I couldn't help but notice the beauty that surrounded us. I felt very fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world and to be outside enjoying it.



Perfect Conditions
Getting Close
Pulk Needs a Bumper Sticker: Skier on Board
Pond
Whole Lotta Snow
When we arrived at the cabin a fire had already be started in the wood stove. It would make a perfect spot for lunch. Our son and I polished off our lunches quickly so we set out to do some exploring while the girls finished theirs. We decided to head north on Adam Scott, west on Fisher and then we started on the new Hills trail. As we started climbing the Hills trail our son asked me why the trail wasn't groomed. We both concluded that perhaps it was too steep for the groomer, even though it wasn't that steep. It wasn't until we got to the top and saw how steep the down hill was that we understood why it hadn't been groomed.
Motoring Along Adam Scott
Steep Downhill
We returned to the cabin after completing just over 3km and tried our hand feeding the birds. We then head out (via Adam Scott to Fisher to Beaver).

A Bird in the Hand...
Bird Whisperer
Can You Spot the Recently Departed Chickadee?
Heading Back
Ski Train


Low Sun
Overall we had an amazing day with some great milestones reached by all of the kids. I can't get over how much they have improved since our last outing a week ago. I love that they are so excited to get out there. One of them said on the ski out "I wish we lived closer so we could come more often".  If you're looking to do some cross country skiing this winter, be sure to add Kawartha Nordic to your list. You won't be disappointed.

Here's hoping that 2017 is filled with outdoor adventures.